Brian Robinson / Maluyligal, Wuthathi and Dayak people / Australia b.1973 / Up in the Heavens the Gods contemplate their next move… 2011 / Linocuts on Dibond panels; PVC plastic, synthetic polymer paint, timber, screws / Four prints: 185.1 x 99cm (each); two sculptural panels: 35 x 185.2 x 122cm (each); 370 x 300 x 40cm (installed, overall) / Commissioned for ‘Land, Sea and Sky: Contemporary Art of the Torres Strait Islands’. Purchased 2011. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Brian Robinson

Brian Robinson
Up in the Heavens the Gods contemplate their next move… 2011

Not Currently on Display

Up in the Heavens the Gods contemplate their next move…  2011 recalls the Renaissance frescoes of European churches in the form of a floating ceiling. The sculptural installation directly references Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam 1508–12 whose figures on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel resemble sculpted marble.

Unlike many artists of the Torres Strait print movement, who typically focus on epic narratives, Robinson often mixes his approach to storytelling, combining elements of classical Christian art with pop culture icons and heroes of his own local culture of Zenadh Kes (the Torres Strait).

In this work, Robinson has represented the passing of culture, law and religion from the Torres Strait Zugubal (spirit ancestors) onto the people of contemporary times amid a myriad of pop culture references such as Astro Boy, Star Wars and chess. We are encouraged to gaze at and explore the central panel of the installation, which is framed on either side by sculpted reliefs of the Zugubal. These spirit ancestors act as sentinels, again recalling the three-dimensionality of Michelangelo’s figures.

Brian Robinson was born in 1973 and grew up in the Torres Strait Islands, where he gained valuable knowledge and an appreciation of his culture. He was particularly influenced by the myths and legends of the Torres Strait, as well as traditional motifs and the natural carving ability of his people.

Robinson commenced work with Cairns Regional Gallery in 1997 as a trainee curator through the Museums Australia Curatorial Internship program, the first Torres Strait Islander to be appointed. In 1998 he co-curated and managed the tour of ‘ILAN PASIN: Torres Strait Art’, the first major touring exhibition of traditional and contemporary material culture by Torres Strait Islander people. The following year, he was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Queensland Art Gallery as its youngest member and its first Torres Strait Islander member. In 2004, he completed internships with both the National Museum of Australia and the National Gallery of Australia.

Robinson is an interdisciplinary contemporary artist, whose practice includes painting, printmaking, sculpture and design. His graphic style combines his Torres Strait Islander heritage with a strong passion for experimentation in media and subject matter. He has worked on numerous exhibitions and cultural projects across Queensland and Australia.

Discussion Questions

1. This artwork is displayed overhead on the ceiling of the Gallery for people to look up at. Do you think this is effective? Explain your answer.

2. Have you ever seen any paintings, designs or sculptures represented on ceilings? Did they tell a story to the viewer?

3. Can you think of some mystical figures that convey stories of culture across generations?



Have a go at the Children’s Art Centre’s comic strip activity that was developed with Indonesian artist Uji Handoko Eko Saputro (aka Hahan). Print out a set of Hahan’s comic cut-outs and combine these with a copy of famous historical painting to create your own interpretation of the scene.